There are many lesser known destinations in southeast Utah that are all too easy to overlook when planning a vacation venture. This is especially true in the Bears Ears National Monument region, which has become a hotbed for corporate sponsored political corruption. Because the National Monument status was recently illegally stripped, the borders of Bears Ears National Monument are not easy to define. The roadside signage is inadequate and details provided by mapping services are scant at best. Even the BLM maps and National Forest Maps are tainted by political bias, so plenty of cross referencing has to be done when planning an outdoor adventure in this region.
U.S. Highway 191 is the main tourism corridor in southeast Utah. This highway runs north from Monument Valley through Bears Ears and onward north to Canyonlands, Moab and Arches National Park. As can be imagined, several weeks could be spent exploring this majestic region. The two big National Parks near Moab do draw most of the attention and this is where the big crowds go. The lesser known National Monuments, State Parks, National Forests and BLM Recreation Areas in this region receive far less traffic, because these destinations are overlooked by the mainstream crowd. For those who want to get away from it all just to enjoy some peace and quiet, the lesser known destinations in southeast Utah do offer more elbow room and the prices are nicer as well!
There are two lesser known destinations that are located just north of Blanding, Utah that the speeding motorists nearly always overlook. Highway 191 goes through hundreds of miles of wide open spaces, so many folks tend to pass on through without stopping to smell the roses along the way. The Recapture Recreation Area and the Devil’s Canyon Campground are two destinations that barely show up on a map and the only way that most folks discover these two spots is to wander off the highway onto the side roads.
The Recapture Recreation Area is a large reservoir lake wilderness area that is located near Blanding. Light craft boating, fishing and ATV trailriding are the main attractions in this BLM Recreation Area. There is an extensive ATV and mountain bike trail system that extends well into Bears Ears and the Manti-La Sal National Forest. The hiking trails in this area are challenging and many of the trails go to ancient heritage sites and hidden canyons that few other people have seen.
The Recapture Recreation Area has a few lakeside Jeep trails that go to some great picnic spots, but during the spring snow melt season the silty soil can turn into impassible mud. By late spring, the ground in this region usually dries up, so using the four wheeler to get to a comfortable spot is much easier to do. Finding a cozy spot for a campsite is also an option at the Recapture Recreation Area and the price is free because this is a BLM Dispersed Camping Area. This is good to keep in mind when touring the pricy National Parks that are a little further on down the road.
The Manti-La Sal National Forest Devil’s Canyon Campground is another frequently overlooked destination at Bears Ears and this scenic spot is located just a few miles north of the Recapture Recreation Area. This campground is only open seasonally, but the picnic area does remain open year round. The Devil’s Canyon Campground opens in early May and it closes when old man winter finally shows up toward December.
The Devil’s Canyon Campground is located in a juniper and piñon forest, so there are plenty of shade trees for a lazy afternoon picnic. This is a National Forest fee area, but the campsite prices are reasonable, especially when considering that the majestic Bears Ears wilderness is right next door. There are several hiking trailheads in the campground area and the most famous path runs through the narrow winding Devil’s Canyon. The Devil’s Canyon hike is a challenging one, because there are places where the canyon walls are so tight, that a large person with a full backpack will have a tough time getting through. The narrow Devil’s Canyon hike offers majestic views and a chance to go to places where few others have been, so this makes the prospect even more enticing!
When casually looking at a map on a smart phone, the Recapture Recreation Area and the Manti-La Sal National Forest Devil’s Canyon Campground will likely not even come into view. Those who are curious enough to browse these two destinations when passing through will be pleasantly pleased with what they see. The Recapture Recreation Area and the Devil’s Canyon Campground truly are lesser known gems that are well worth checking out in the Bears Ears region!
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